I’d maintain that the American road movie represents something close to existential within our national self: a concordance of lies we’ve been told, innocences we’ve lost, tall stories we’ve heard, tragedies we long to be free of. That’s what the road, seen so starkly and magnificently in the opening of Scarecrow, means.
Nearly anyone whose home harbored a TV in the ‘60s and ‘70s has the familiar Harryhausen topoi imbedded on his or her alpha waves: the lizard-hipped postures, roiling reptilian tails, the many-armed saber-fights, the disturbing flexibility of stone and bronze colossi, the warping of scale perspectives, the in-our-face manifestations of nightmarish mythic archetypes, etc. If there is a Jungian collective unconscious that can indeed be glimpsed through the looking glass of primitive myth, then Ray Harryhausen alone gave its archetypes … Read More
That Mari Blanchard’s amoral vamp steals and kills, simply because she wants to and can, allows She Devil (1957) to maintain its male-centric moral ground. But it’s never very convincing, because though Blanchard is supposed to seem utterly menacing and irrational, she actually comes across as merely opportunistic and criminal, responding to an unfair social system as a rogue outlaw might, and playing by the men’s rules.
Taken on its face, Volker Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drum is a spirited, lavish adaptation of a great postmodernist novel, style-free, geared for award-winning and only as distinctively strange—when it is strange instead of commonplace—as Gunter Grass’s book. But looking at it again, via Criterion’s new restored edition, we must recognize its vitality as a historical marker, sounding the beginning of what we could call Holocaust pop culture.
How and why the design assault of something like The Thief of Bagdad seems so bewitching is something of a mystery, open for creative speculation and theorizing. When we’re hypnotized by what might be called an “overdesigned film,” an epithet that could be applied to everyone from Melies to Tim Burton, it’s not a response we cinephiles are very good at articulating, or understanding. What exactly are we bowled over by?
Night of the Hunted is a fascinating and resonant example of how genre films can unassumingly cross vectors with the philosophical trajectory of New Wave art films, and emerge as the beautiful, freakish hybrids that often foster cult adoration years after they’ve been dumped by their unimaginative distributors.
Remember film as a “subversive art” or the late Amos Vogel’s book “Film as a Subversive Art,” and the cultural idea that cinema, among other cultural platforms, could upend or transgress or torpedo the fears and prejudices and oppressions that keep us blind and subservient? Today, the goalposts have not just been radically moved, they’ve been all but dismantled. What movie stands a chance of shocking anybody?
That even the sleaziest of pop culture items, such as the fun-loving genre porno Sexcula, could disappear off the grid in the modern era, is nothing less than bedevilling. Although we may sense that we know cinema, that we see it as a limited and graspable field of human endeavor, it is nonetheless monstrous in scope, riven by secrets and bursting with texts left unknown by the action of entropy itself.
Room 237 is certainly the first feature film entirely about what another feature film might actually be about and probably isn’t. For most of us, one look at The Shining is enough to know that it’s a Rubik’s Cube with no final solution, a mystery maze with a hundred doors and no exit. But what if we’re wrong?